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2. New investments, jobs among region’s top stories

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2. New investments, jobs among region’s top stories

The county welcomed the first Volvo supplier into the state. Also, companies from both Italy and China announced they will be locating their plants in the county.

The successful year in economic development — combined with the county’s lowest unemployment rate in the 28 years of record keeping — made the local economy’s strength among the top stories in The T&D Region in 2018. It ranked second.

Volvo supplier

In November, Orangeburg County became home to the first Volvo supplier in the state.

Officials with Gnotec Group, a Swedish firm, said it was going to invest $5.9 million and create 78 new jobs over the next five years. It is the company’s first North American plant. Sweden now represents the single largest manufacturing investor in Orangeburg County.

The company will move into a 30,000-square-foot production facility in the Carolina Regional Park off of U.S. 601 near Interstate 26.

Company officials cited the county’s growing automotive industry, skilled workforce and excellent support as key factors in locating here.

Gnotec will use the facility initially for warehousing and then manufacturing operations focused on welding and product assembly.

The plant is expected to come online in the first quarter of 2019, helping to support the Volvo plant in Berkeley County, which will serve as the global production site for Volvo’s all-new S60 sedan. The plant is expected to produce the next-generation XC90 in 2021.

Italian company calls county home

Italy-based Valagro, a producer of biostimulants and fertilizers for the agriculture industry, in May said it would invest $14 million and create 47 new jobs over the next five years.

The Orangeburg County operation will be Valagro’s first manufacturing facility in the United States. It became the county’s 20th foreign investor.

The company will build its new 65,000-square-foot facility at 397 Millennium Drive at the Orangeburg County/City Industrial Park.

Construction was slated to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018, and the facility is expected to come online in the third quarter of 2019.

The company plans to invest about $5.2 million in building construction and improvements and about $9 million in equipment and machinery.

Chinese company announces 200 jobs

Chinese recycling company Ecomelida Inc. in March announced its plans to invest $52 million and create 200 new jobs over the next five years in Orangeburg County.

Ecomelida Inc. will locate in the 200,350-square-foot former Federal Mogul Friction Products plant at 2084 Rowesville Road.

The company will separate pulp, plastic and aluminum from soft drink cartons and other products for use in products such as tissue paper, plastic flowers, coated plastic products and clothes hangers.

Plant operations were expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018. Hiring for the positions was to begin in the third quarter of 2018.

This will be the company’s first U.S plant and will serve as its U.S. headquarters.

Unemployment rate reaches historic low

The month of May also saw the county reach a record low in unemployment rates.

Orangeburg County’s unemployment rate for the month was 4.4 percent. That’s the lowest the county had seen since January 1990, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping county data.

Other announcements in 2018

  • Cement packaging and distribution facility Longleaf Packaging broke ground in September on its 18,700-square-foot automated package and distribution center on Good Farm Road off of Interstate 95.

The company is investing about $6 million and is projected to create 28 new jobs at its 28-acre site over the next five years.

The plant will package and distribute bagged, pre-blended dry-mix products in 80-pound to 3,000-pound bulk bags. Production was expected to begin in the fourth quarter of 2018 with operations beginning in the first quarter of 2019.

  • Fortune 1,000 company Universal Forest Products announced in April it would invest $6.1 million and create 120 new jobs in Orangeburg County over the next five years.

The company located at the John W. Matthews Industrial Park in the 75,000-square-foot speculative building located at the park’s entrance. The park is located on U.S. 301 near U.S. 176.

The company will operate in Orangeburg County as UFP Cameron LLC and was expected to come online in the fourth quarter of 2018.

The facility will be dedicated to manufacturing products for the industrial market.

Universal Forest Products also purchased North American Container in March.

“Overnight, UFP became one of the largest employers in our county,” Robinson said.

  • Zeus Industrial Products Inc. in February announced it was investing $15.9 million in Orangeburg County and creating 20 new jobs.

The expansion includes the addition of 64,000 square feet to its Industrial Road operations. The addition will allow Zeus to house its engineering, equipment design, tooling production and machine assembly operations in one centralized engineering center.

  • Tree Brand Packaging Inc., a manufacturer of wood pallets, skids and specialty crating, in January began its operations on Bunch Ford Road in Holly Hill.

With a capital investment of $1.3 million, the company is projected to create 28 new jobs.

The family-owned company provides a variety of custom pallets, skids, crates and packaging.

  • Charleston-based Southern Current in August said it was investing $28 million in the development of a 20-megawatt solar farm near Elloree.

The 180-acre solar farm will be known as Ulmer Solar LLC. The solar farm will be located southwest of the Food Lion Distribution facility near Felderville Road, Veneer Street and Farmers Road.

  • Eagle Solar Group announced in February it plans to build a new, $87.9 million 75-megawatt solar farm outside Bowman.

The project will be located at U.S. Highway 178 near Bethel Forest Road. It will be placed on property no larger than 1,000 acres. It is expected to come online in 2020.

It is one of eight solar farms to announce plans to build in Orangeburg County over the last three years.

Beyond new industrial announcements, a 58-acre piece of property is being developed at exit 145 near I-26 for a future industrial park.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative purchased about 380 acres in the spring of 2017 adjacent to the interstate off of St. Matthews Road for approximately $5.5 million.

The site has a mainline Norfolk Southern railroad access as well as easy access to the four-lane highway and interstate.

About 80 acres of the property are currently being cleared with about 50 acres being readied for industrial development.

“It creates that opportunity to win that next big project,” Robinson said.

Looking ahead

Orangeburg County Development Commission Chairman Kenneth Middleton said the key to the county’s success in 2019 will be to see an increase in public and private collaboration in order to increase products in the county.

“We need more private investors to be a part of the mix so it is not all county-funded,” Middleton said. “I hope it will happen because we have sold everything we can build. Volvo suppliers are coming, but they are going to go somewhere where the community is ready for them with new construction.”

He said the lack of available space in Orangeburg County could be a challenge in 2019.

“Since we have been successful in selling the buildings that we have been blessed enough to have built with partnerships, the showings are going to be down if those buildings are not available,” Middleton said. “Companies need to go to market very quickly. Sometimes they will allow us to build for them from the ground up.”

“But we will markedly be more successful if we have … product already built,” Middleton continued. “We can chart the numbers and the number of looks we have when we have product versus when we don’t.”

As for what industrial sectors will be pursued in the new year, Middleton said automotive suppliers will most assuredly be near the top of the list.

“Gnotec was the first — I hope the first of many,” he said. “We have been looking over the horizon but the horizon is here.”

Calhoun and Bamberg counties

The past year has also seen some success outside of Orangeburg County.

In Calhoun County, Zeus Industrial Products Inc. announced in February it would be building a new manufacturing facility, investing $76 million and creating an additional 350 jobs over the next several years.

The new facility has been constructed at the county’s Eastman site.

In April, OPDE Group announced plans to construct a new solar farm in Bamberg County. The company plans to invest approximately $63 million in this new operation.